WWE 2K17 Review – Who’s Next? (PS4)
Despite my better judgement, I’m a huge fan of professional wrestling — otherwise known as the sport of kings. The combination of acrobatics, storytelling and real physical pain just can’t be beat when done correctly. Sadly, more often than not, professional wrestling features terrible writing, non-logical moments and baffling booking decisions. Being a wrestling fan often leads to a lot of disappointment, but the moments where everything clicks together makes the time investment totally worth it.
Similarly, despite being disappointed in WWE games for the past decade, I always start to get excited when October comes and a new one gets released. Maybe this will be the year where Yuke’s Studio’s engine isn’t filled with bugs, and the gameplay will allow players to put on five-star matches as if they were Shawn Michaels. That is almost never the case, and sadly it isn’t this year either.
Anyone who has played WWE 2K15 or WWE 2K16 on PlayStation 4 should have a good idea of what to expect here. 2K17 is another counter-heavy fighting game that takes place within the squared circle. The in-game action consists primarily of heavily scripted animations (which I guess is apt for a heavily scripted sport) that can be broken apart by timed button presses of the right trigger. I’ve never loved how much the focus is on counter (literally almost every move from a punch to a german suplex can be countered), but it’s been a signature of the series for so long that I’m not sure that Yuke’s could really get away from it.
The in-ring action is as sloppy as past outings, as the wide-range of characters don’t always interact well. I guess it’s not surprising that a character model like Andre the Giant wouldn’t mesh well with a small character like Kalisto, but that’s a possible matchup in the game, and it’s not rare to see arms clipping through each other and other anomalies. Often times players will punch in the opposite direction of their opponent for no reason, and I’ve seen way too many characters miss attacks despite the opponent not countering at all.
This isn’t to mention all of the glitches that make a triumphant return. I’ve seen Vader attempt to pick up a table in the ring only for it to morph under the ring and then his arm get twisted and stretched as if he was Gumby. Some of these glitches are downright hilarious, but more often than not they’re annoying and a reason for frustration. I had been playing as Sami Zayn in the game’s MyUniverse mode, and had finally reached a shot at the WWE title at Wrestlemania after winning the Royal Rumble. Right after I pulled off my finisher and went for the pinfall, the ref just stood there instead of counting. Yup, the referee’s animation broke and my sure win was negated. While I was able to still win the match, it was in spite of the game trying to screw me over.
Plus the graphics are as much of a mixed-bag as ever. In-game models range from stunningly lifelike in the case of John Cena to turning the beautiful interviewer Renee Young into some sort of monster (seen above). It’s so strange to see someone as detailed as AJ Styles is in-game competing against a poor model like the late Dusty Rhodes (which looks more like a create-a-wrestler than an official model). A lot of the female WWE Superstars look poorly done, which is disappointing to see as the WWE pushes a women’s revolution on their television every week.
While the problems of past installments are still present here, there have been a lot of additions (and one major removal) in this year’s game. The biggest of which is that multi-man matches are no longer a complete chore to play. This is due to some smart decisions where players are forced to roll out of the ring after taking a huge damaging blow. This is much like a real match where not all four participants in a fatal four-way will be battling it out all at once, and often one of them is on the sidelines getting energy back. This also means that pinfalls aren’t being broken up as constantly, and these matches can end much more quickly.
Ladder matches, which have previously been the bane of my existence, have also been significantly improved. No longer do players have to constantly readjust a ladder since it wasn’t directly placed in the middle, as the game now snaps onto the middle. I don’t know how it took the series over a decade to figure out this simple solution, but I sure am glad they’ve done it. They also added a new mini-game when grabbing the belt that has the player forcing a ball inside a rotating circle with a small hole in it. It’s totally fine, but the major addition is ladders auto-locking to the center.
Other worthwhile additions include the ability to brawl “in the crowd” during matches, although it’s more like a completely sectioned off waste of space than a lively crowd, and the return of backstage fights. The backstage fight only has one location, the backstage of WWE Raw, but it’s at least a pretty fun one to brawl in. There are some nice touches such as being able to go into Triple H’s office as he reacts in the most casual manner to two guys beating the crap out of each other in a business environment, and the ability to break up an interview that Renee Young is conducting.
While those additions help out some specific match types, the other big features fall flat on their face. For example, the ability to cut promos in the game’s career modes is more broken than Matt Hardy. In my create-a-character career, I cut a scathing promo on my babyface tag team partner and broke up with him claiming that he was holding me back. Somehow, that made my bad-guy character gain points in the babyface category. I think adding the ability to cut promos is a smart addition, but 2K couldn’t have implemented it any worse than they have.
The other much ballyhooed upgrade is the game’s presentation. This is indeed an improvement as the game will use camera angles that are similar to an episode of WWE Raw (although thankfully without the shaky camera). These look great, but they also impact the gameplay negatively. Often times I would be pushing the analog stick in one direction, the game would switch cameras and then I was going the opposite way I was trying to go. That sucks. I’m all for upping the presentation, but it can’t get in the way of the core gameplay like it often does.
Finally, WWE 2K17 marks the removal of my favorite mode from the past two installments — the 2K Showcase. Last year this mode allowed players to relive the highlights of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s career, and re-enact classic matches. It was awesome, and it was laced with slick video packages that told players all about the “Texas Rattlesnake.” This year they could’ve focused on a number of characters such as the recently retired Sting, or Goldberg, who has been all over the game’s promotion. Sadly, it’s nowhere to be found, and that’s a bummer.
It seems like every single year the WWE 2K games take a stride forward, but also a few steps backwards. 2K17 is no different as for every smart gameplay change there is a missing feature or a worthless addition. The yearly release schedule is clearly making it difficult for the team to fix issues while also adding new features, so they’ll have to make a choice sooner rather than later if trying to juggle both each year is worthwhile. For now, WWE 2K17 is barely off Jericho’s list.
Review code for WWE 2K17 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.